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Bridge Down the Road

This week, a reader wants to know when they can avoid driving over a damn dam when high-tailing it Arizona way. And another reader does double-duty in divulging driving dummies.

George Appleton asks: Do you know when the bridge below the Hoover Dam is supposed to be finished and open to traffic? Reason being that I have an offer on a piece of land down by Dolan Springs and what sounds like a good offer to buy it from people who, I’m sure, are buying vacant desert lots around there on spec. Knowing when traffic will be flowing would certainly help me.

You’ve got some time to spare, George. The bridge probably won’t open for at least three more years.

Builders of the $240 million bridge, spanning the Colorado River about a quarter-mile south of the dam, intended to have the span open by the end of next year. That was before high winds in September knocked over a four-tower crane system key to stretching the span over the river.

The collapse halted most work for several months and forced engineers to revise construction plans to accommodate the loss of the pulley-type crane system. A similar replacement crane system won’t be in place until late this year, according to the Federal Highway Administration, which is overseeing the project.

"There are a number of alternatives under consideration that could shorten the schedule by a few months," the agency said in a project newsletter, without offering specifics.

Until then, more conventional cranes are being used to get some work done.

When finished, the 1,905-foot span 890 feet over the river — formally named the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, after the late Nevada governor and football star-turned-soldier killed in Afghanistan, respectively — will carry four lanes of U.S. Highway 93 traffic that now uses the two-lane dam.

Once open, about 17,000 cars and trucks are expected to use the bridge every day, including more than 2,000 trucks that now detour via U.S. Highway 95 to a river crossing in Laughlin. Trucks have been forced to use that detour since truck traffic was banned from the dam just after the East Coast terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The new bridge should speed traffic over the river canyon, which has traditionally been a bottleneck for traffic between Nevada and Arizona. And that’s drawn interest from a number of developers who are interested in building bedroom communities along U.S. 93 in northern Arizona.

But before you buy a planned house in the Grand Canyon State, be warned: Regional transportation officials are concerned that once the bridge is open, the traffic bottleneck could simply shift west to Boulder City, where U.S. 93 needs an upgrade to handle a higher volume of fast-moving traffic.

There are plans for a new U.S. 93 bypass skirting south of Boulder City, but that $400 million plan lacks funding. Unless a bag of money falls from the sky, or the statehouse in Carson City, the Boulder bypass might be mothballed until 2025 or so.

Keep your patience handy.

An update: Regarding last week’s item on plans to extend Fort Apache Road between Warm Springs road and Tropicana Avenue, I have some happy tidings.

"We’re going to pave one lane in each direction as an interim facility until that stretch of roadway can be fully improved," said Bobby Shelton, a spokesman for Clark County’s public works department. Work should be complete by the end of August.

Hit ‘n’ Run: Road Warrior unindicted coconspirator Rani Gill is good for a story or two. First, there was the sport-utility vehicle she saw along U.S. Highway 95 with a lift kit that put its bumper at a level to behead drivers riding in lower-slung cars.

"He is not kidding with his license plate of "STOMPNU," Gill said. You know, stomping you. Must be Mother Teresa’s truck or something.

"I think I could actually drive my Miata right under that one," said Gill.

Hope none of us has to. Unless it’s the dude Gill saw earlier this year. He’s askin’ for a stompin’.

"I know in Las Vegas people run red lights all the time. They gun their engine and through they go in order to try and beat the opposing green light change. This morning (on May 17) was the first time I ever saw a driver disavow the existence of red lights!

"At 5:50 a.m., I was sitting in a left-turn lane to turn from Charleston (Boulevard) to Grand Central (Parkway). One of two turn lanes was empty. The light had been red for a minute already," she wrote. "A large gold and tan pickup came from behind on Charleston, got in the empty turn lane, never slowed and turned left on red. But it did not end there!

"He then proceeded all the way down Grand Central and smoothly ran every red light without braking or gunning the engine," she wrote. "Do you think he had the same drivers’ education book we did?"

Maybe he’s just colorblind.

If you have a question, tip or tirade, call the City Desk at 383-0264, or send an e-mail to roadwarrior@reviewjournal.com. Please include your phone number.

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